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Where To … Part 5: Drawn Out Cloudy Days

February 12, 2013 in Infertility, Surrogacy

What started out as a status update on Facebook has now turned into a blog post …

I’m feeling rather bleak today. I went from feeling rather green yesterday after a Sunday afternoon of overindulging in lovely pastries and cakes during an afternoon tea session with some girl friends, to being somewhat blue / bleak today. Maybe our deal in life is not to have a family of our own. I’m tired (yes tired and somewhat grumpy) of well meaning people saying “Don’t worry it’ll just happen when you least expect it. You just need to relax.” or “You’re trying too hard. Just let it happen.”. Maybe I need a loud-hailer to yell “WITHOUT A UTERUS, WITHOUT LOADS OF GOOD EGGS, <strong>NOTHING</strong> WILL ‘JUST FUCKING HAPPEN’!”. Shagging like bunnies was taken off the table the day my patchwork uterus popped like a balloon, suitable egg donors don’t just fall out of trees, surrogate mothers aren’t exactly popping out of the woodwork saying ‘pick me!’ and NO our family (if ever we have one at this rate) won’t just miraculously appear out of thin air. We have to make it happen with whatever means and legal ways are available to us.

So here we are. Our potential surrogate mother turned out to be shady and a fraudulent crook = no surrogate mother. Our new egg donor can’t hang around forever and she’s available in March / April – we either use her or lose her to someone else. It’s a cut and dry business deal – no frills, no freebies, no ‘specials’. Eggs for cash in March – take it or leave it. Our intention was to do fresh embryo transfer, but without a surrogate mother and a good but hasty egg donor wanting to cash out her egg pension over the Easter holidays, we have to do the next best thing. We are going to have to freeze any viable embryos. Frozen embryo transfer has a much lower success rate, as we know from experience, but we don’t exactly have a huge number of options right now.

So therein lies my bleakness today.

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Where To … Part 4: In The Blink Of An Eye

February 4, 2013 in Infertility, Surrogacy

In the blink of an eye life often has unexpected turns around every corner. Just when you think you’re headed in the right direction, an event happens that makes your lose your way again.

We met with our prospective surrogate mother, who seemed like a lovely person, week before last at the fertility clinic. LH and I left our initial meeting with her feeling elated and hopeful and started the ball rolling on meeting with her husband who wasn’t at the meeting, psychometric testing, draft surrogacy agreements, attorney appointments etc …. During the last two weeks however I had tried to, on a numerous occasions, to contact our prospective surrogate only to find that she never answered her phone. I guess from time to time we are all guilty of that, but something was starting to niggle at me.

Last week the bombshell started dropping. Our psychologist KB emailed me with an urgent request to discuss concerns about our potential surrogate. What emerged from KB, our attorney who’d had previous dealings with her under a different name, and subsequently from our own investigation, was alarming and disturbing to say the least. The dirty trail of deceit, outright lies, to fraud … the trail was long … the trail was scary … What her ultimate objective was with us remains unclear, but from what little interaction we’ve had with her to date, her intentions were clearly not good. I severed all ties today … and resolved to continue our search for a surrogate mother.

 

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Where To … Part 3: We Love It When A Plan Starts Coming Together!

January 27, 2013 in Adoption, Infertility, IVF, Miscarriage, Surrogacy

Firstly a belated Happy New Year to everyone following the blog!! I hope that all your dreams for 2013 come true.

Wow! So much has happened since my last entry. LH and I went on a much needed 2 week holiday to the Maldives. The trip was a surprise ‘gift’ from LH for our 3rd anniversary and it couldn’t have come at a better time. We were both emotionally drained and needing ‘time out’ for just the two of us and what a better place to have ‘time out’! In true LH style, when we boarded the plane to Dubai, I had no idea where we were headed! Our days were spent diving the crystal clear warm waters with a myriad of different schools of colourful fish, odd looking ocean creatures and coral, cycling around the island, lazing around our private pool, sipping on cocktails, massages at the spa and dining on delectable Asian cuisine.

Feeling energised on our return, I threw myself into finishing off our adoption profile. Reviewing what I’d done thus far with ‘fresh’ eyes, I scrapped it and started again! I was surprised by the range of emotions I felt whilst putting it together.
* Frustration – what to include / exclude;
* Hope – our baby could arrive any moment once our profile is submitted;
* Anger – why is it so easy for others to become parents and yet we have to ‘promote’ ourselves to a complete stranger;
* Empathy and sadness – if selected by a birth mother, we gain a family of our own, whilst she loses a child;
* Self doubt – will the prospective birth mothers like and connect with our profile … choose us as the couple to raise their child?
I was pleased with the final result of our profile and looked forward to receiving the printed copy in the post at the end of December. On the 4th January we delivered our profile to the social workers, along with all the other original copies of documentation and were registered on the central national database of prospective adoptive parents. The ‘wait’ has officially begun …

Since that fateful day 14th October 2010 when we lost our daughter 5 months into my pregnancy, then again 29th August 2012 when we lost our son 13 weeks into our surrogate mother’s pregnancy and the graveyard of little embryos in between, I’ve not cared much for Christmas and New Year. It’s a really difficult time for me, especially this past festive season where everything seemed to be hanging in the air – so much uncertainty. Waiting for our adoption profile to arrive, worrying about our trusty doc who was gravely ill, wondering whether we’d ever be able to find another surrogate mother, wondering whether the fading hope I hang onto every day is just a foolish dream. It was therefore such a lovely surprise when I received a phone call from our trusty doc just last week with news that he is well, back at work and has a potential surrogate mother for us!

With hope restored, perhaps 2013 will be our year after all! With conservative excitement and some trepidation, we’re pressing forward and making the necessary arrangements / appointments with psychologists, attorneys etc … And so our surrogacy journey begins anew …

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Where To … Part 2: The Way Forward

November 14, 2012 in Adoption, Infertility, IVF, Miscarriage, Surrogacy

My mind has been in a million places since I last wrote in the blog. At one point I was just about ready to give up, feeling exasperated, frustrated and totally hopeless. The brain however should not be underestimated (even mine!) as it is a wonderful organ, which finds a way to heal and seeks clarity, restoring our hope and our dreams. So although the frustration of our helplessness seems insurmountably great, our loss unbelievably painful, we are not defeated and remain determined to succeed in our journey to parenthood.

In the past weeks we’ve started walking the avenue of adoption, have had our adoption screening and are patiently waiting for the feedback whilst preparing our adoption profile. Simultaneously we’ve decided not to give up hope on the surrogacy front and are actively looking for a surrogate, exploring options available to us both locally and internationally. One thing I have come to terms with is that I will never have a biological child of my own – a full sibling to Stella, but it’s a reality I’ve now made peace with (finally), so we’ll be going straight to donor egg. Up until a couple of weeks ago, I thought I had 3 options for a surrogate mother, but sadly all fell through:
1. Surro Mom 1 – considered too risky taking our history into account as she’s had 4 caesars, which compromises her uterus
2. Surro Mom 2 – the commissioning parents became parents through adoption, but then decided to also do IVF starting January 2013.
3. Surro Mom 3 – has medical complication and we felt was doing it for the wrong reasons as her decision was purely financially motivated despite the changes to the SA law.

As we’ve come to learn the hard way, this journey is one that we can map out step by step. There are so many unknowns, so many hurdles and unexpected obstacles. I’ve adopted a saying “What will be … will be” … whilst it doesn’t wipe away the tears, the anguish, the loss, the pain of what has happened in the past, it makes the inability to control what happens in the future more bearable. All I can do in the meantime is try to set the wheels in motion as best I can.

For now I’m focussing on two tasks – that of finding a surrogate mother and putting our adoption profile together. We’re hoping that someone out there may find it in their hearts to give us the greatest gift we could wish for.

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The Pregnancy – Part 4: Rose Tinted Glasses

August 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

In the past, when I pictured my eventual family through rather naive rose tinted glasses, I always had visions of me with my LH and 2 children. I also never wanted to be considered an ‘old’ mother (i.e. over 40!) and saw myself having children in my mid 30′s. The reality however is somewhat different. Throughout my life I’ve always been accustomed to strive for what I want and do what it takes to get there. I got this trait from my Dad who was such an instrumental part of who I am today, as he taught me most of the valuable lessons I still apply in my life. As a result I was mostly always ahead of my game.

With rose tinted glasses cast aside, by the time I was 20 years old I was working hard to pay the bills, put food on my table, petrol in my car and finance my night school classes. I was also partying up a storm every opportunity I could get – after all this is what being in your 20′s is all about. By the time I was 31 years old, I was a successful career woman with big responsibilities, a large home of her own in a leafy suburb, travelling all over the world on business trips with a blasé attitude towards personal relationships, bordering on being commitment phobic. Serious relationships cramped my life-style and my independence, so I treated all my romantic relationships frivolously, which often meant making the wrong choices. Looking back, my biggest fear was being ‘stuck’ in a disgruntled and unhappy marriage. I’m glad I waited until I met LH and didn’t rush such a big decision that would change the course of my life. Had I done so, I would have perhaps had my 2 kids, but not the right partner in life to raise them in a happy and secure environment. Although I have had my struggle with infertility because of my age, lost my precious baby mid term, will never know what it’s like to experience carrying a baby to full term and made immense sacrifices, I have no regrets at all that . I have a fabulous LH, a solid marriage and completely accept the path that I have travelled. Is it what I originally had planned for myself? Not exactly. Is it where I want to be right now? Without a doubt in my mind.

Question I’m now asking myself is, in light of what we’ve been through to get to this point, do I still want 2 children? We have one precious baby on it’s way, which I’m extremely excited about, but it’s been a incredibly long and emotionally tough journey to get to this point. Do I have the inner emotional strength to go down this road again? Would it be fair on LH? Our situation after all is unique and such a decision would again involve a team of people, a whole load of financing, zero guarantees and an emotional roller-coaster ride unlike any other. I’ve always believed that to have a sibling in a loving and supportive home is an amazing experience. As a parent it must be equally rewarding and heart warming. On the flip side, it can also go horribly wrong.

Unhealthy sibling rivalry can create all sorts of jealousy issues, insecurities, antagonistic competition, animosity and undesirable tension within a family unit. In saying that however I truly believe that the dynamics leading up to unhealthy sibling rivalry is often fuelled by the parents at a time when each child in the family is competing to define who they are as individuals and either of the parents favour one child over another. I could be completely wrong in my theory, however if I look at just our circle of friends, there are those that have awesome sibling relationships and others that are completely antagonistic toward one another mostly citing parental favouritism. LH on the other hand grew up as an only child and sees the merits in being an only child, although for his entire junior and senior scholastic career he was in a boarding school surrounded by fellow boarders. Although not siblings he was surrounded by his peers all of the time, but boarding school is certainly not an option I would choose for our child. Siblings on the other hand can and often do share a special bond, unlike that of friendship. Perhaps again I’m looking at the world through rose tinted glasses. Either way, this is a decision that we need to make quickly because of the orchestration required between all of the parties involved, which means it won’t happen over night.

There are two avenues I’m looking at if this is the way we decide to go …

Sigh … it would be a much easier decision if all we had to do was partake in some bedroom gymnastics! … Sigh … unfortunately not an option for us, but it was a nice fleeting thought :-)

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The Pregnancy – Part 3: Realisations & Realistic Expectations

August 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

It’s been a super-charged few weeks with what feels like complete craziness. Next week – on Wednesday to be precise – we’re going for our 13 week scan at the Foetal Assessment Centre. In some ways it feels like the past 12 weeks have flown by and in another it feels as if everything has been moving in incredibly slow motion. Weird.

Our 10 week scan all went well and was an emotional one in that it was our final scan at the fertility clinic and we bid our farewells. In a way I felt like my safety blanket was being suddenly taken away, as the team at the clinic have been so instrumental in being part of my emotional support structure and getting me to this point. Our little bean had grown from 19.49 to 36.4mm. With our 13 week scan now coming up, there’s a lot of apprehension as we’ll find out which of our precious embryos has survived – the one from our donor egg or the one from my egg. Whilst in my mind I’ve made peace with what ever the outcome may be and I’m now finally allowing myself to start feeling really excited about our precious baby, I’m not sure LH will take it so well if it’s not what he’s hoping for. What I am sure about however is that we will be there for each other, as we always have been through our journey and for our SM whose been so incredibly amazing.

It’s really odd having a baby without the experience of going through the pregnancy and having those pregnancy hormones rushing through my body. Whilst some women may think I have the best of all worlds, in essence I feel like I’m missing out on a whole chapter of our child’s life – the first 9 critical months of his or her life. Even though my pregnancy with Stella was fraught with complications, worry, bed rest and emergency trips to the doctor, I really enjoyed being pregnant and feeling the glow of being pregnant. Now all I can do is look in occasionally from the outside through the eyes of the camera during the scans. In some ways it still feels vaguely surreal, but in essence I guess what I’m experiencing is a pregnancy through a father’s eyes – just from a greater distance in that I don’t see our SM every day – for now it’s been just for the scans. Silly as it may seem, I keep trying to remember in detail what I was feeling with each week in my pregnancy with Stella, just so I can hope to connect in some way with our baby. On the one hand it’s an incredibly hard and immensely sad time for me and on the other I feel almost like a child counting down the days to Christmas. There’s absolutely nothing I can do to alleviate the feelings of melancholy that sometimes threaten to take over, bar taking a fistful of anti-depressants, but as someone who gags at the simple thought of a pill, it’s a process I simply need to work through in my mind and through my writing. What keeps me afloat is the immense gratitude I feel knowing that I have an amazingly strong husband and that we’ve been given this unbelievable opportunity with the help of so many phenomenal people. I had no idea what incredible individuals I’d have the honour to meet and befriend along the way.

Well it’s almost 1am in the morning – I’m listening to LH’s steady breathing next to me and our furkidz’ gentle snoring, so I guess it’s time to bid a goodnight. Tomorrow I’ll share some more thoughts on another topic that has been weighing heavily on my mind.

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The Pregnancy – Part 2

August 4, 2012 in Uncategorized

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Ok, I’ve been quiet … in fact super quiet for far too long. The reason … I’ve had LOADS to digest, process and figure out in my heart and in my mind. Until now I haven’t really known how to assimilate and verbalise my thoughts and feelings which has been a mixture of excitement, elation, sadness, apprehension, mourning, celebration, uncertainty, grief, joy …. the list goes on and on.

Embryo transfer took place on 11th June where two embryos were transferred to our SM (1 mine and 1 from our egg donor, both of which were fertilised by LH’s swimmers). First pregnancy blood test took place on 21st June – an unbelievable positive. Beta blood test to confirm first result was on 25th June – again an amazingly positive result. A momentous occasion that we’d been striving towards for so long! Hormone levels in both test results were extremely high … twins perhaps? We were holding onto that hope.

As scheduled we went for our 7 week scan on 23rd July. With our hearts beating loud and fast in our chests we peered at the screen to see one tiny 11.4mm embryo developing beautifully with a rhythmic heartbeat barely visible, but so definitely there. LH asked about our second embryo … but there was no sign of a second sac or second heartbeat. One perfect embryo, which although heartbreaking for us as we had SO desperately wanted twins, we were elated with our tiny little bean on the screen. On the way home from the appointment LH voiced what was weighing heavily on my heart … is it my little bean or the donor egg bean that has survived? In a way we’ve been desperate to get a part of our daughter Stella back and whilst I realise she will never be with us in this lifetime and can never be replaced, her sister may just bring us peace, a better understanding and overall acceptance of where we have found ourselves. What few people understand is that each and every time we’ve lost an IVF embryo it’s been incredibly hard for us and a mourning process has followed. This time however it was a devastating blow. Perhaps the knowledge that the embryo was perfect in every way, passed the dreaded PGD tests, had survived an artificial lab environment, followed by a freezing process and then thawing process, only to perish after transfer, makes it harder bear. Perhaps its the knowledge that it could very well have been the little embryo from my egg that perished, Stella’s full blooded sister, an embryo I had endured a year of 9 rounds of back to back IVFs for; months of endless drugs, poking, prodding, hope, tears, needles, bloating, night sweats, bruising, discomfort, PMS, depression, anaesthetics, procedures, disappointments and quite honestly borderline insanity, during which my relationships with friends and family suffered tremendously – some irreparably. Or perhaps it’s the knowledge that this could very well have been the one and only chance of us ever having 2 children. Whilst we still have 2 remaining frozen embryos, what are the chances of us finding another surrogate mother? … or of those remaining embryos surviving the thaw and transfer process? As has always been the case in this journey, the odds are stacked significantly against us. With these odds in mind, we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that our one little developing bean is an absolute miracle and a blessing. I know that everyone says the 12 week mark is the one to aim for in terms of the safety margin, after which you can relax. With our history and the fact that I have absolutely no control over this pregnancy as SM is carrying our baby for me, I’m going to find it incredibly difficult to relax until we are at least 27 or 28 weeks into the pregnancy. A catastrophic event caused us to lose Stella just short of 20 weeks, in a manner and at a time when she had absolutely no chance of survival. Should something go wrong at 27 weeks, our daughter or son will have a very good chance of survival.

With Stella’s death, I’ve learnt that life is incredibly fragile and that we cannot assume that anything is a given, nor can we take anything for granted. Whilst I work through the melting pot of emotions which is threatening to boil over and just about consume me at any moment, I hold onto memories of our beautiful daughter Stella who we never got to know and look forward to embracing each milestone of this pregnancy.

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The Pregnancy – Part 1

June 28, 2012 in Uncategorized

Wow … there was a time when I never thought I’d be typing a heading like the one for this post. A time when I felt like a hamster on a wheel … frantically running to get somewhere, but withoutactually getting anywhere. After months and months of back to back IVF’s friends / family start looking at you as if you’re crazy … crazy to be putting your mind through devastating disappointment after disappointment … nuts to be putting your body through chemically stimulated hormonal hell month after month and gently suggesting that perhaps it’s time to consider throwing in the towel. Who can blame them? I looked like crap, felt like crap and my moods were delightfully over the top crap! But on I went with the same determination of a little hamster running frantically on his wheel … and how glad I am that I did.

Whilst we patiently wait for 16th July … (patiently?? … who am I kidding!) SM and I have been chatting about how she’s feeling, how I’m feeling (LOL!), diet, levels of exercise etc … I promised her that I would be doing everything alongside her with regard to lifestyle changes, so that she doesn’t feel isolated and also so that I can share in the experience as much as possible – which means (still) no drinking, no sushi, no caffeine, urm… no sex when prescribed … etc … I’m aware that many surrogate mothers feel a sense of isolation and irritation when their commissioning / intended parents (especially the commissioning mothers) carry on with their lives with little regard for the sacrifices that their surrogate mother is making for them … entirely on their behalf. There was a story told by a surrogate mother (not ours), about a time when she was invited out to supper by the commissioning parents. Throughout dinner the commissioning parents quaffed back glasses of wine, ordered sushi and finished off with espresso coffees. Whilst that is an extreme case of insensitivity, it’s important for me that our SM doesn’t ever vaguely feel that way. I must say that SM and I have been able to openly and honestly communicate with each other which is a HUGE help, even on sensitive issues. In a surrogacy journey communication this isn’t always easy, which is why so often couples seek the assistance of a social worker to navigate the through the sensitive and sometimes uncomfortable discussions. It’s an individual choice and one that we haven’t needed to make.

Over supper this evening I said to LH that I wished I could go to sleep tonight and wake up on the morning of 16th July – how amazing would that be … just be fast forwarded to the future! No one warns you ahead of time about how difficult it is to get through the waiting and wondering during each stage of any IVF cycle. This particular wait between blood results and the scan is becoming particularly challenging for me. For now I’m throwing myself into my work, staying positive, trying to keep calm and remembering to breath!

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IVF IX – Part 12 : Is It All A Dream?

June 28, 2012 in Uncategorized

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On 21st of June SM’s hCG levels were sitting at just over 200 – which indicated a very healthy positive result. Today’s beta hCG blood test, which is to measures how the levels are increasing (which they should be considerably) shows an hCG level of 1896! Our pregnancy is developing well!!

Our little girl Stella, who we lost almost 5 months into my pregnancy was conceived in June 2010. Almost exactly 2 years ago to the day we are now expecting again – another co-incidence? Another factor working in our favour? Who knows how the universe determines what will be and what will not, but for now I’m feeling blessed and revelling in the fact that we are expecting with a healthy SM.

Our next date to look forward to is 16th July – our first scan where we’ll see if we’re having twins!

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IVF IX – Part 11 : Alignment of Stars, Planets & The Universe

June 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

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It’s amazing how incredibly long 10 days can seem … when waiting for results that will change the course of the rest of your life. 11th June two of our Little Miracle Embryos were transferred in a simple, seamless and painless procedure in theatre. The only reason it’s done in theatre is that the room ambient temperature has to be perfect (warm), the environment sterile and although a simple procedure it’s very intricate. So now my embryos are in someone else – our wonderful SM who has willingly offered to lend us her womb and give us (people she’d never met until our meeting a year and a half ago) the greatest gift I believe anyone could ever give. The gift of our babies.

The date we were anxiously waiting for … 21st June … the 10 day hCG blood test that would tell us whether there was a pregnancy. After 9 days of pent up anxiety and apprehension, on the eve of 21st I felt a wash of (relative) calm fall over me. My reasons … the role of the number 21 in my life. My late brother’s birthday was on the 21stJanuary, LH’s birthday is on 21st April, LH and I were married on21st November. Co-incidentally the sister on office duty, who would be calling with the results, was celebrating her birthday on 21st June. What are the chances? It was like the stars, planets and universe as a whole were aligned in some way … how could it possibly be anything but a positive outcome??

 

The news on 21st June came in earlier than expected and caught me off-guard. I was expecting the call to come through as scheduled at around lunch time. Our SM had sms’d just after 7am to let me know that she was going for her test shortly after 8am. At 10:30am the call came through … with the best possible news we could hope for at this stage of our journey. Our SM’s hCG levels are really high, confirming a pregnancy!! LH was in a boardroom meeting with business partners and customers at the time … I’m not so sure how productive the meeting was after receiving such monumental news!

Whilst it’s early days, we get a confirmation result with the follow up blood test this coming Monday 25th and then a scan on 16th July if SM’s hCG levels have continued to climb. Only at that scan on 16th July will we know whether we’re expecting a singleton or twins. Of course then there’s the 12 week marker as with all pregnancies, followed by our 13 week foetal assessment before we can finally … finally can start to relax … just a bit. Still so many milestones … so many baby-steps. What we’ve learnt through this journey thus far however, is that life can be so unexpectedly and incredibly cruel at any given moment. We cannot afford to take anything for granted, but we can allow ourselves to and should cheer the milestone victories.

In the meantime I just need to remind myself to breathe … breathe.